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Idea management: how to correctly prioritize your ideas

Separating the wheat from the chaff is key when it comes to idea management. Various evaluation methods provide useful starting points for this.
Image: © Flamingo Images / Adobe Stock

Why is efficient idea evaluation so important?

Whether by brainstorming, incorporating customer feedback, or conducting user studies – ideas for changes and new developments can often be generated relatively quickly. However, merely collecting creative thoughts is not enough to ensure targeted idea management. Instead, you have to separate the wheat from the chaff at an early stage and determine which ideas are realistically feasible and actually promise success. Spending too much time on unsuitable solutions unnecessarily wastes development resources that could be used much more effectively elsewhere. Therefore, it’s important to thoroughly evaluate your ideas and identify which ones are worth investing time and money in from an implementation perspective.

What ideas are truly valuable?

How do ideas need to be obtained for them to turn out to be worthwhile innovations for your company? The answer to this question greatly depends on your corporate goals. These could include:

  • Making workflows more efficient and reducing costs
  • Solving technical challenges
  • Fleshing out your USP and gaining competitive advantages
  • Tapping into new market potential
  • Increasing your company’s brand awareness
  • Improving the customer journey
  • Strengthening your customer relationships

When addressing the needs of your customers, evaluating the user behavior of your target group, or analyzing your competitors, it is important to always keep your company’s individual goals in mind. Otherwise, you risk getting caught up in a flood of interesting suggestions and neglecting genuine development potential. An idea holds good prospects when it brings real added value to your company and can be implemented with a reasonable amount of resources. The added value of an idea should be thoroughly weighed against the development resources that are needed to put it into practice. The cost side includes factors such as time, money, staff capacities, and business risks.

Evaluating ideas – what method is suitable?

To separate effective ideas from less effective ones, you can use a wide range of evaluation methods that have differing levels of complexity:

  • Scoring: If you want an easy approach, straightforward scoring methods that work by assigning points are ideal. For example, your team members can assign one to five points for every idea, resulting in a total score for each suggestion at the end. This method works on a rather intuitive basis and is not really appropriate for more complex issues.
  • Outranking: This method is especially useful when you have a lot of ideas that need to be weighed against each other in an uncomplicated process. The aim of outranking is to quickly remove less suitable suggestions from the pool of ideas. In this method, two to three key success factors are defined for ideas. These success factors should be closely linked to your specific goals. The individual ideas are then compared with each other in terms of how well they meet the defined criteria, i.e. in what aspects they perform equally, better, or worse than the other ideas. The “worst” ideas in the ranking are immediately ruled out at the end.
  • Pairwise comparison: This method works in a similar way to outranking, except that only two ideas are weighed against each other. The candidates receive -1 point (“the idea is not as good as the other idea”), 0 points (“the idea is as good as the other idea”), or +1 point (“the idea is better than the other idea”). By comparing several pairs this way and entering the results in a table, you can get a comparative overview of the options.
  • SWOT analysis: A SWOT analysis, which is a well-known strategic development method, can also be used for the qualitative assessment of new ideas. Since this method involves individually evaluating each idea according to its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, you should have already narrowed down your selection to a small number of candidates.
  • The Walt Disney method: When ideas need to be discussed within a team, the Walt Disney method can facilitate a differentiated assessment. In essence, it is a kind of role play where team members act out a total of four different characters: the dreamer, the realist, the critic, and somebody neutral. The idea is presented from each perspective in turn and discussed until a common standpoint is finally reached.
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